'We'd Be Better Off Selling Yams on the Street'

2013-03-01
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Chinese candidates waiting to sit for National Entrance Examination for Postgraduate (NEEP) at a university in Beijing, Jan.5, 2013.
AFP

A group of high-school students in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong has launched a campaign to end gender differences in the country's high-competitive university entrance exam. Currently, China's education ministry has admitted that it uses the entrance requirements to control the gender balance among college students, particularly in 'professions in the national interest.' But five high-school students from Guangzhou say there must be other ways around the issue, staging a song-and-dance protest outside government buildings this week, where they burned their schoolbooks and toasted yams:

Guangzhou high-school student surnamed Liang:

"The threshold is different for males and females, so we'd be better off selling yams. At least there is equality in that. This is what we want to say. We were singing and dancing on the street, and a lot of people took notice. There were three or four local media outlets that came and took photos, and it looks like they will report it. We brought some yams with us and we went to the gates of the university entrance exam committee. We were afraid they would chase us away, so we did a very fast performance, about 10 minutes of dance, and then we shouted some slogans, and then we left."

"The education ministry listens to people's opinions, and it even told people via Weibo in January that it had noted that while it had been forced to raise some thresholds for female students, it hoped to be able to reduce the occurrence of such situations. But I think using grade thresholds to control the gender balance [in colleges] is grossly unfair. If they really want to solve this problem then they'll have to start in primary school and middle school, and change how they are teaching the kids in school. For example, girls' thinking skills develop earlier than boys', so maybe they should go to school earlier.
There is a very low proportion of women in science and technology courses, so maybe the high-schools should have girls-only science courses, to boost girls' interest in science."

Guangzhou high-school student You Yi:

"We want a lot of people to pay attention to this, and we are calling on the education ministry to make some changes for the new intake of students. Girls and boys put the same amount of effort into the exam for the university they want to go to, but the girls are being left out in the cold because of the differences in threshold, without the status that comes with being admitted to that university. This is extremely unfair, and we hope that the education ministry will...give us a straightforward answer, about whether they plan on changing the rules in future. We hope to see such a change in future.

Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.